Author Topic: Wisconsin: Blastomycosis cases decline in Marathon County  (Read 3455 times)

Offline Lisa

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Wisconsin: Blastomycosis cases decline in Marathon County
« on: August 23, 2011, 06:40:51 AM »
Blastomycosis cases decline in Marathon County
Aug. 22, 2011

An enigmatic fungal infection that appeared in record numbers in Marathon County last year appears to be in decline this year.

Local doctors and hospitals have reported just 11 cases of blastomycosis this year, a marked change from 2010, according to the Marathon County Health Department.

"Blastomycosis is a funky little organism that likes a very specific kind of environment," Chronic Disease Prevention Director Judy Burrows said. "This may be one of the blessings of a cold winter."

Health department officials suspected that a mild winter followed by a late spring freeze in 2010 might have contributed to the growth of blastomycosis, which sickened more than 50 people last year. Veterinarians in the area also reported an increase in cases among dogs and cats when contacted by the Daily Herald.

The boom inspired a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Health officials hoped that a local cluster of cases would allow then to learn more about the fungus that causes the disease.

The fungus is believed to develop in damp, decaying material and to spread when a human or animal inhales its spores. In extreme cases, the disease can cause death.

But the fungus hasn't been isolated in a lab, preventing health officials from studying how or why it develops.

Burrows said the county still is waiting for the results of the CDC's study and expects a final report this fall. No major breakthroughs are expected to be included, though, and health officials are left to give the same warnings as in past years.

"I think there's a greater awareness that the disease exists," Burrows said. "Whenever you have an increase in incidents of a disease, people become more aware of the symptoms."